Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks the sidelines in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
A week ago, the story was Rob Gronkowski and his broken arm. Seven days later, the next scandal on the docket is Jermaine Cunningham's four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He's the second Patriots player this month to be suspended, joining running back Brandon Bolden.
On Tuesday, coach Bill Belichick spoke about the latest player to be punished by the NFL.
“Unfortunately, sometimes on these things, people make mistakes,” Belichick told reporters during his weekly conference call (via ESPNBoston.com). “Everybody is accountable for them. I think those situations are unfortunate. Neither one of them had to happen. They weren't that important, but they were violations, so they are what they are."
Earlier Tuesday, ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss suggested that owner Robert Kraft might have some questions for Belichick regarding the recent spate of suspensions.
"…Suspensions for Brandon Bolden and Jermaine Cunningham put a black mark on the Patriots "brand," and because of that, I'd be shocked if Kraft in particular wasn't asking some hard questions," Reiss wrote in his weekly mailbag column. "That brand means a lot to him. I also think Belichick cares about that and wants his players to do the right thing."
Cunningham had been playing well in recent weeks, and now Belichick will need to juggle the roster to maintain depth along the defensive line.
"We'll have to take a look at our options here," Belichick told reporters. "Basically there's two options: we could bring somebody in outside the roster, or we could do something with a player on the practice squad. We'll see, take a look at our options, talk to (director of player personnel) Nick Caserio, get his thoughts and input on it relative to the personnel that's available like we usually do. (We'll) handle it the way that we usually handle those type of situations and try to make the best decision for the team that we can this week and the remaining five games."
On Tuesday, we suggested that veteran Travis Scott could see more snaps. Another short-term solution might be rookie Jake Bequette.